Long Beach Kicking Queen: Ashton Rupert blazing trail as four-sport athlete
Once every few years on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, you’re looking on from behind the bench at a high school football game and then you see it: a pony tail coming out of the back of a helmet.
This season, this is your typical Friday night in Long Beach and her name is Ashton Rupert, who’s saying yes to the dress, and just about any other athletic uniform she can get her hands on.
“I was trying on my helmet for the first time and I was like hold on, let me take my hair down. And they were like, whoa, we’re not used to that. And then one time I think I was asking Coach Foreman like hey, do you have a pony tail and it just completely didn’t click with me that they weren’t going to have a pony tail. And they were like, no. I don’t have one, sorry.”
Being the only girl on the high school football team certainly has a learning curve, but it’s nothing a four-sport athlete like Ashton Rupert can’t kick her way through. “Last week volleyball ended, so I would go from here to soccer practice and then leave at 3:10 from soccer practice, go to volleyball and then try to catch middle school because I assistant coach the middle school girls soccer team, so busy. Very busy.”
No rest for the weary, Ashton plays soccer, her first true love, volleyball, softball, and now football for the Bearcats. “It was always, well, what if you get hit? And I was like, then I get hit and get back up. Just like if I get pushed down in soccer, get back up.”
As it turns out, playing goalie made her the perfect candidate to win the starting kicker job. All it took was a little nudge from former Assistant Coach Doug Lucas. “I was doing a goal kick and I kicked it like 40 or 50 yards and he was like, why don’t you let me bring you out here during lunch sometime and show you how to kick a field goal. Would you be interested in that? I was like, I don’t know. My Dad isn’t going to let me. He’s not going to let me.”
Knowing what we know now, Ashton must have a pretty persuasive touch. Not only is she the starting kicker, she’s the only kicker on the team, good from up to 35 yards in game with a long in practice of 50. “I’ll make a PAT and they’re all slapping me on the head. I’ve got to duck a little bit so I don’t get a concussion. They’re hitting me so hard.”
Defensive end West Bourland said, “I don’t know how she does it either. Words can’t describe what she does between her sports, her extracurriculars activities, her religion, her relationship with God. She does it all, and she’s very amazing.”
Ashton got even busier last week, if that’s even possible, as one of five senior maids on the Homecoming Court. Low and behold, she won homecoming queen, right alongside homecoming king, and teammate, West Bourland. “I never really thought I’d be in those shoes, winning homecoming king and then my teammate and long life friend winning homecoming queen. It was really great and spectacular and very special.”
“Winning was just – that was amazing. It was nice enough to be in my dress, I didn’t have to be in my uniform. And then they were just like alright, you’ve got to get ready. And I was like, alright, let’s do it. Ran into the locker room, my mom helped me get undressed and put on my football stuff, came out here, started warming up. Played in the game.”
Not only did Ashton play in the game, she kicked an extra point and handled the kick-off duties. As fate would have it, that now makes her the second female kicker coached by Ryan Ross to win homecoming queen and score at least one point in a game on the same night.
In 2018, Kaylee Foster made national headlines for kicking the game-winning extra point against George County, in overtime, when he was the headman at Ocean Springs. Offensive coordinator/ field goal unit Coach Lane Brady said, “Coach Ross, he came over and he told us all about that story and how cool that experience was for him and then Ashton comes out and kicks, and he kind of looks at us and says, well, now we’ve got another kicker that’s a girl, and then next thing you know she’s in the homecoming court and he looked at us and said, this might happen again, and sure enough it did, you know?”
“Whenever she was playing and she won homecoming queen and I read a story and watched all her videos and I was just like, this is awesome. This is awesome. I wish this could be me one day, and then it happened and now I’m just like, oh wow. I’m sure there’s other people saying that now. It’s amazing to sit back and like, wow. Look at all God’s done for me. He’s really just been so faithful and amazing and all of this is just a blessing. It really is.”
Ashton says she wants to play soccer at the next level while majoring in education so that she can one day teach and coach.
If you’re wondering what Kaylee’s up to, she’s now a junior soccer standout at Mississippi College.
Long Beach hosts West Harrison Friday.